By Lee Noles
WEDDINGTON – If the Weddington girls swimming program could split its history into two sections, it would look something like this: Anything before Katie Corbi and Maddy Flickinger and everything after.
Since their arrival in 2015, Flickinger and Corbi have combined to win 15 individual state titles while leading the Warriors to state runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2019. They were also the catalyst in helping the Warriors to their first Southern Carolina Conference and regional titles this year. A stark contrast to the program’s first 15 years when former standout Katherine Plevka’s championship swims in 2010 and 2011 in the 200 individual medley were the only wins on the state level.
“They have been an integral part of this four-year run,” said Weddington coach Pam Holley. “They by far have been the MVP of the girl’s squad … Since they were freshmen they have anchored the team.”
Flickinger and Corbi’s path to swimming stardom started in two distinct ways. Flickinger moved to Union County from Georgia when she was 7 years old. Not knowing many people, she decided to join the neighborhood swim team because, “That’s what you do around here,” she said.
Her natural talent caught the eye of her summer league coach who was also in charge of a year-round program in Charlotte. Flickinger swam there for several years before switching to her current club, Swim MAC.
Corbi’s involvement in the pool came after eight years of gymnastics had her burned out and searching for something new. She found it by tagging along to her older sister’s swim practice when she was 12.
Corbi started in the lower-level groups at MAC but quickly rose through the ranks, where she joined Flickinger on the club’s elite teams. The two bonded in middle school after Corbi switched from Marvin Ridge to Weddington because of redistricting.
The cohesion grew tighter as the two found similarities outside of swimming. They each like soft alternative music and both take an AP chemistry class together. They enjoy food, albeit different types.
“I like sushi,” Corbi said. “I could eat it every day.”
“Pasta,” Flickinger said. “Oh yeah, and bagels.”
The strongest similarity between the two, according to Holley, is their desire to help the Warriors any way they can. Holley points to this year’s state championship meet as a perfect example. Last season Flickinger entered as the top seed in the 200 IM and lived up to the billing by taking the lead into the final lap. It wouldn’t last as TC Roberson’s Grace Reeder edged out Flickinger for the state title. Holley said Flickinger was apprehensive about swimming the event at this year’s meet, but quickly put any concern aside when she realized it would help the Warriors get points.
“She didn’t want to have that disappointment like she did the year before,” Holley said. “But she was locked in this year. She wasn’t going to get caught in the back half.”
Flickinger won the event by more than three seconds to capture her first of four state titles at the meet. She also won the 100 backstroke and joined Corbi and teammates Kylie Yoder and Kelsey Tolchin to win the 200 freestyle relay. Yoder, Flickinger and Corbi teamed with Ashley Martinson to win the 400 free relay.
“It was really cool to get all four,” Flickinger said. “I knew this year I was swimming better, and it gave me the confidence to finish strong.”
Corbi was putting together her own stellar performance by winning the 50-freestyle for the fourth year in a row. The victory wasn’t easy. She had to come from behind to out-touch Charlotte Catholic’s Alina Stout and Olivia Rhodes by a mere three-tenths of a second. Stout entered the finals as the top seed, and Rhodes defeated Corbi at regionals a week before.
“I don’t have that great of a start,” said Corbi, who manages to breathe once during the two-lap race. “But I do a good job underneath the water, and I have a good finish. And I made my turn at the wall and got a really great push off, and I took the lead from there.”
The duo’s performance still wasn’t enough as Catholic held off the Warriors by a mere four points to win its 16th state title. Flickinger wasn’t focusing too much on the loss, though. What she remembers is the green and golden sparkled tutus, shirts, and tiaras the Warriors wore when accepting their medals.
“We had fun,” she said. “It unified us and got us excited. It put us in a good mood.”
The end of high school will send the pair in different directions. Flickinger has signed an athletic scholarship to swim at North Carolina State. Corbi heads to the Naval Academy to carry on her swimming career. Both know what they did to help the Warrior program.
“This year it was important for us to set a tone for other swimmers coming up to follow,” Flickinger said. “We want them to keep things going on.”